The fate of a free woman in a country rooted in prohibitions.
Hayat grows up on rue du Pardon, a small unassuming street in Marrakech. It’s a poor neighbourhood, but one where spitefulness prospers. Hayat, who was born blonde, provokes sniggering everywhere and shame in her mother. She’s surrounded by a sordid jungle, with an evil-faced father and housewife neighbours who hiss tauntingly like snakes. All these difficulties should get the better of the child but, like a bird leaving its cage, she escapes and comes back to life thanks to Mamyta, the greatest Eastern dancer in the kingdom, a sort of geisha – singer, dancer, instructor, lover. Mamyta is both maligned and admired, and her songs are a combination of the ribald and the sacred. When she dances all sadness evaporates. With her help, Hayat learns how to turn a man’s head, to avenge hostility with charm, and to forge a life for herself.
Mahi Binebine is the most famous living painter in Morocco. Originally from a large complicated family, he has been a maths teacher, painter, sculptor and novelist with some ten novels to his name. Les Étoiles de Sidi Moumen (Flammarion 2011) was translated into eight languages and adapted for the screen by Nabil Ayouch with the title Les Chevaux de Dieu (Awarded a prize at the Cannes Film Festival). His last novel, Le Fou du roi, was translated into six languages.